Cyberstalking can look different for everyone, but generally, it appears as harassment or stalking online through platforms such as e-mails, websites, social media or even forums. Individuals, groups, or businesses can be targeted and can often be subjected to slander, threats, defamation, and false accusations. Cyberstalkers motives are often to control others, intimidate victims or collect personal information to use in other activities such as offline stalking or identity theft.
So what does cyberstalking look like? Sometimes people don't even realise it's happening. It can start off as just a few negative messages or comments on social media and then snowball into more and more unwanted messages until suddenly you feel harassed and concerned. You start to receive multiple messages on more than one online platform, and messages can start coming from more than one account. The eSafety Commissioner provides a more in-depth understanding of what cyberbullying can look like. It can include:
Unwanted contact through phone calls, e-mails, text messages, online messages or receiving offensive material.
Sharing or threatening to share personal information or any information about you that may hurt or humiliate you.
Posting comments online that may embarrass you or may be abusive towards you.
Gaining access to your online platforms to get hold of your personal information, know your whereabouts, and change your password to lock you out of your accounts.
Impersonating you online and harming your reputation or relationships. This can include creating fake social media or e-mail accounts to appear that it's you.
Monitoring your movement through GPS tracking. This technology is usually built into the program or apps you're using and can tell cyberstalkers where you are or have been.
So what do you do if you think you may be a victim of cyberstalking?
In Australia, cyberstalking is a criminal offense all in states and territories. If you are worried someone is stalking you online, contact your local police station and get help. The eSafety Commissioner provides support and advice on how to best move forward and get the right help with a range of online issues, including cyberstalking. Click here to connect.
It's also important to have an online safety plan by completing a couple of easy steps. These can ensure you and your devices are safe and your time online is safe. The eSafety Commissioner has some fantastic links to look through that offer tips and support for your online safety.
This link goes through a social media checklist and offers videos and a checklist for you to go through.
This link can help you learn how to secure your devices and online accounts.
And this link provides safety tips for when you're online. It'll help you to use your device and accounts safely and make sure they are secure.
If you or someone you know is at risk or immediate harm, call 000. If you are having thoughts about self-harm or suicide, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
eSafety Commissioner. (2019). Cyberstalking. https://www.esafety.gov.au/key-issues/domestic-family-violence/technology-facilitated-abuse/cyberstalking